Monday, November 16, 2009

Middle-schoolers: The Lost Years

When I tell people that my oldest daughter is 12 and in 7th grade, I see their faces shape into horror and then pity. My own parents seem to delight in seeing me try to dissect this time. My friend that is now a grandparent just shakes her head. My friend that's a principal and spent many years with middle-schoolers assures me that it's all normal, and we'll get through it.

Still, that's pretty much all the support and advice I get. Just grin and bear it.

There is a multitude of resources available to learn about our children in the years from 0-5, and almost as much for the high school years, but the resources nearly dry out for our elementary graduates.

Most people hated middle school (or junior high, as it was known back in my day). The common perception of this time is that it pretty much sucks. It's the time that cliques are born. Bodies are changing, but not quite there yet. You're expected to be more responsible, but you still can't drive a car or stay out late. Maybe most people would rather forget it altogether.

I was prepared for some of the changes. I knew she'd want to spend a lot more time talking to her friends. I prepared her for the biological changes, much to her chagrin. I was even prepared for the rolling eyes, and the ups and downs of middle school girl friendships - albeit not thrilled.

Still, there have been moments that I hadn't expected in any way. I didn't know, for instance, that she would revert to some of her younger traits. I didn't think she'd be as scared of her growing up as I am. And I'm truly surprised that she still wants to spend as much time with me as she does.

I found The Rollercoaster Years by Charlene C. Gianetti and Margaret Sagarese to help guide me through these next few years. The book explains their cognitive development from ages 10-15 to help me understand the burst of emotions, the rapid behavioral changes, easing my whiplash just a little. It's also been reassuring to learn that my opinion is still most important to her.

She still fights with her little sister over who gets to sit next to me. She calls me every day to let me know she's on the bus to her after-school program, but will stay on the phone to tell me about her day. She'll text me when she has a fight with a friend, or just to say she loves me. She still gives me our special goodnight kisses. But it's kind of fun to drool over Johnny Depp with her, too! It's nice to see that she can do most of her homework without my help. And she's developing an ear for sarcasm - a must-have trait among the adults in our family!

While no book (or blog, for that matter) can fully prepare us for our individual child's development and their own unique challenges, I can't believe that these years will be any less filled with wonder as her earlier years were. It's exciting (and yes, exhausting) to be a part of her world as she finds her place in it. And I'll continue to hold her hand as we brave the ups and downs together.

Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, Nov. 16, 2009.

1 comment:

dailyplateofcrazy said...

I read you over at LA Moms, talking about the tween years, and your daughter. You know - I hadn't realized it until you said it, but there really isn't much said (relatively) about those years. My teens are a little older (and boys), but you hit on something that's really important I think - for boys and girls.

At 12 and 13 especially, for all the physiological changes taking place, there's still a huge part of "little kid" in there.

My younger son was very much still a little kid at that time, and was in no hurry to take on the responsibilities (and fear?) associated with older teens. And he was pretty much like that until high school, then changed, very quickly when he hit 15.

It's a roller coaster for them (as you mentioned that book), and for us, to figure out how we can best take care of them. But there are plenty of good, sweet, wonderful times even in those years. I have a store of images in my head - those last years that they really are still "our little ones."

BigLittleWolf